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Ben Smith

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Beasley taking record in stride

Beasley

– This dream come true was never a dream at all, when you get right to it. Who sees history coming, growing up in Fort Wayne? Who picks DaMarcus Beasley as the one who does this, who has a chance to play in four World Cups?

Down the years there were Alexi Lalas and Clint Dempsey, Tab Ramos and Tim Howard. There was Claudio Reyna. There were Cobi Jones. There was Paul Caliguri and Brian McBride and Tony Meola, and especially Beasley’s celebrated contemporary, Landon Donovan.

None of them played in four World Cups. None of them stood where Beasley stands now as the first American likely to do that.

Dream come true? This is something beyond dreams, perhaps.

This is Beasley on the other end of the line this May afternoon, saying, no, no, he hasn’t given the enormity of it all very much thought. This is the World Cup, after all. It’s enormous enough without trying to wedge history into it somewhere.

“No, actually it hasn’t,” Beasley says. “I haven’t even really given it much thought. I’ve only been worried about, obviously, the team and hopefully we can get off to a good start.

“I think after my career is over and I’ve retired, then I can think back over my accomplishments. Then I’ll appreciate it more. But right now, I’m not worried about it. I’m just trying to help this team.”

He’ll do that again from the back line, where at 32 his career has found fresh legs. Jurgen Klinsmann figured that was the place for him, and what the national coach figures, you go along with. And Beasley, whose blinding speed as a youngster afforded him long runs out of the midfield, had to learn to play going the other way, mostly without the ball.

“My job is to stop their winger, make sure the line is tight, make sure they don’t get as good a chance,” he says. “That’s my job. My job isn’t to score goals.”

He did that job well enough to land on the national team yet again, while his old friend Donovan, the face of American men’s soccer, shockingly did not.

But it’s not as if Beasley has ever stood much in anyone’s shadow; he has, after all, scored more Champions League goals than any American in history, and he has 96 international caps and 17 international goals. And, no, he never dreamed of any of that, either.

“My dream was just going out there and having fun,” Beasley says. “When I was growing up, there weren’t any (professional) leagues (in America), so the future looked pretty dim.

“Once the (MSL) got there, yeah, I knew I wanted to do it. And then obviously to actually do it, yeah, it’s a dream come true.”

Even in Fort Wayne, no one’s idea of a soccer hotbed – unless you’re from here and know how much of a hotbed it is. This weekend, for instance, 18 Fort Wayne United teams, more than any other club in the state, are playing in either President’s Cup, State Cup or Challenge Cup games in Indianapolis. And every kid on every one of those teams will have a dream that’s touchable in a way Beasley’s weren’t, back before they outgrew even the realm of dreams.

“Every kid dreams of playing in the World Cup,” Beasley says, putting words to it. “It’s the biggest event in the whole world.”

Times four.

Ben Smith has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1986. His columns appear four times a week. He can be reached by email at bensmith@jg.net; phone, 461-8736; or fax 461-8648.

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